Quakers in The Dengie Hundred

Quakers have been in existence since the early 1600's when a preacher called George Fox began to preach that people could communicate with God without the need of a Minister to act as intermediary.

Through the years Quakers were persecuted but persisted in their faith.

At first meetings took place in peoples houses or outbuildings.

As Quakers did not believe in the Church of England many refused to pay local tithes which went to the Church and as such were often imprisoned.

There is an unattributed story about a Quaker sent a bill to a Clergymen for work that he had not carried out. When the Clergyman asked him why he has been billed for this work the Quaker replied If you wont pay for work that you didn't ask for and have not benefitted from why should I pay tithes as they are exactly the same.

In about 1660 John Pollard of Steeple was both imprisoned in Colchester Castle and on his refusal to pay a �50 fine had his cattle worth over �300 confiscated.

In 1662 John Pollard was back in prison this time with his brother Joseph Pollard also of Steeple for refusing to pay Church tithes.

John Davidge of Burnham was imprisoned for 5 weeks. He obviously continued to follow his religion as he is recorded to have been sent to the Chelmsford house of correction at a later date.

 Stephen Hubbersly was arrested at a meeting and taken before a magistrate who released him as the Magistrate found that he had committed no crime. He was arrested again and this time served 5 weeks also in Colchester Castle.

Thomas Lee of Steeple was fined 20 shillings for working on a Sunday.

By 1676 monthly meetings began to be organised and the local group of Quakers who met at Steeple joined with other local groups to hold a regular monthly meeting at Witham.

Although Quakers believe that there is no need for churches because God can be found and worshiped anywhere they began to build permanent churches that would allow them to join together although they called these buildings, Friends Meetings Houses rather than churches

From this point Quakers began to be organised with some rules, the ability to hold ceremonies such as marriages and most importantly they began to keep records.

A decision was taken at the Witham monthly meeting to open a burial ground and negotiations began to purchase a plot of land at Steeple with the first burial taking place in 1695.

The isolated nature of the burial ground from the main centres at Witham and Maldon meant that during the 1700's the burial ground at Steeple was no longer used and a new burial ground was purchased at Witham.

Although no headstones and little evidence of its use is visible today, Essex Records Office has records of the burials  which are stored with the records of the Parish Church at Steeple.

By 1701 the movement grew to the extent that a monthly meeting was now held at Maldon as well at Witham and in 1709 the Quakers opened their own meeting house at High Street, Maldon.

Essex Quarter Sessions in 1706 granted approval for the use of private houses as Quaker meeting houses to Henry Heielam at Southminster, Anne Wite in Mundon and Thomas Woodward in Steeple so Quakerism seemed to exist throughout the Dengie Hundred.

The current Meeting House in Maldon was opened in 1821 and has been in continuous use ever since.

In 1861 The Peoples History of Essex estimated 800 memebers in Essex and  listed meeting houses at  Bocking, Chelmsford, Coggeshall, Colchester, Dunmow, Earls Colne, Epping, Halsted, Layer Breton, Kelvedon, Maldon, Plaistow, Saffron Walden, Stansted Mountfitchet, Stebbing, Thaxted and Witham.

This website has a list of Quaker deaths from 1844 to 1886

This website has the story of the burial ground at Steeple

The local Quakers have a website which provide some of their history and explains their beliefs.
Findwhoyouare provide information on tracing a Quaker ancestor